Thank you Donna Macpherson for my post title and my mantra for 2015, I'm gonna do exactly as you say!
At the beginning of a new year it’s natural to look back over the past twelve months, but for me it seems as if 2013 and 2014 have merged together, my mind has deleted a lot but I’m hanging on to the good bits. It doesn’t feel like it’s nearly two years since I was diagnosed with mouth cancer, February 18th 2013 to be exact, which was followed by major surgery on the 18th March then six weeks of chemo and radiotherapy that finished on the last day of May, I look back at run/walking the Skye half marathon 6 days later in just under 3 hours with a smile, and covering 127 miles at the 48 hour race at the British Ultra Fest 10 weeks post treatment is filed under How the hell did I do that! Then managing to cover 25 miles at Glenmore 24 in my own wee special 6 hour run, that really felt like I was coming home, which was followed by a slog round Loch Ness marathon in just over 5 hours. These races were done purely to prove I was alive and kicking, and they did wonders for my morale.
The start of 2014 didn’t feel like a new year, just a continuation of working towards the goal that kept my head up when tough stuff threatened to overwhelm me. I had two images in my mind, I visualised slapping my hands on the Leisure Centre door and collecting my Goblet to the sound of the support of my WHW family.
I followed no schedule, just trusted my judgement regards training, it was a fine line between doing enough training without knocking myself back, was I fatigued from training or the treatment? In March I ran Smokies 10 as hard as I could, I was 10 minutes outside the previous years time, but chuffed all the same, my next quest was running all of Loch Katrine Marathon, I could go as slow as I liked just no walking, mission accomplished! Then in April I covered 40 odd miles over 2 stints supporting AllyKRunsSkye. Mr Macpherson you are my hero, there are many that have fought hard for their sporting achievements but none as hard fought as yours in the worst weather I’ve ever had the “pleasure” to run in, proud to play a small part in your epic run. Then the Highland Fling was a huge boost to my confidence, I did it within the WHW cut-offs, peace of mind I’d get half way.
West Highland Way race 2014 was so special, I was living the goal that had held me together through so much, I don’t want to use the word easy, but knowing what it meant to me negated any pain or fatigue. The standing ovation when I received my goblet was overwhelming, I held myself together like a rabbit in headlights if I could’ve found a voice I would have said “Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.” The support of my WHW family made a huge difference and I can’t imagine being able to do what I did without it.
Glenmore 24 was tough, I still didn't feel back to full strength, and conditions weren’t in my favour but still chuffed to do what I did. I had an appointment with my consultant a couple of days after, my Macmillan nurse was not impressed that I’d lost a bit of weight but I glibly retorted “Ocht, I’ll soon put it back on, that only happens when I run nearly ninety miles at the weekend!” My consultant smiled and shook his head, he tends to do that more often than not when I see him, he has allowed the start of reconstructive dentistry and after several visits to St Johns Hospital in Livingston at the end of November I now have a lovely set of laughing tackle, I feel my speech has been knocked back a wee bit with them and eating is still a struggle, but they are work in progress, eventually I might be able to have implants in my top jaw, the bottom jaw has been too damaged by the radiotherapy so not an option there, but at least I’ve got a bonnie smile back!
The Loch Ness Marathon was a happy plod, I’ve got the full set and since 2008 it has always been around a fortnight after a 24 hour race so I’m happy just to enjoy the scenery, Pauline ran with me but I wasn’t going to be dragged round and we had a fine steady race, and I had a wee giggle to myself near the finish, within the last half mile Pauline said “You can wind it up any time you like.” My reply “This is wound up!” I wasn't going to spoil a lovely run with a sprint finish, not sure I could've managed much of a one anyway! I had great fun running Glen Ogle 33, time-wise it wasn’t anything special but that’s not important, one thing that stayed with me the whole way, I felt strong, something that has been lacking since my treatment. I felt a wee bit tired doing it again the following weekend, Pauline wasn’t able to run the GO33, she’d tweaked her back a few days before the race but it settled down enough to go back the following Saturday. That day had a bit of a horsey theme, I don’t suppose anyone else doing the race has noticed a wee memorial cairn to a horse that led the charge at the Hamden riot in 1980? Nope? Well, something to look out for this year then! As we were heading down the path back to Killin we met a woman leading a horse, she asked if we could do her a favour and hold her horse as she got back on, she said he was a skittish Arab and wasn’t for behaving, I stood back, Pauline held his reins and spoke in an authoritative manner, he still wasn’t behaving when his owner tried to get on, I braved up and held on too, eventually the woman got back on and cantered off with a thank you over her shoulder. I was well impressed with Pauline, she impressed herself too, saying she’s only used to a stroppy wee Westie and the closest she’s ever been to a horse before was watching them parade round the paddock at a day at the races before sticking a fiver on one!
December was an easy month, just ticking over waiting for the New Year to start, I definitely feel like this year is a new start. Comparing my training for this January to January 2013 before my cancer diagnosis, I’m not far away from being back to where I was then, it’s taken two years but I feel strong and ready to take on all the challenges I have the luxury to set myself, mainly my eleventh West Highland Way Race and Glenmore 24.
Yesterday I ran a good strong 10k at Buchlyvie, the course is fairly flat but underfoot there were patches of ice and a muddy forest track, I was only one minute twenty seconds slower than my 10k PB set over twenty years ago on a warm evening on dry tarmac in Dunfermline although that course was hilly.
I’m not sure whether I will ever run a PB again at any distance but it won’t be without trying, not because I care about the time I do, it's more about shouting “Fuck you cancer!” Strong is the new fast!